WINTERING Kiwis may be flocking to the Sunshine Coast, but Noosa Chamber of Commerce president Carl Beck believes the increased direct flights to our airport do not go far enough.
Mr Beck has welcomed the two flights a week to and from Auckland for 17 weeks that could bring with it a $20 million tourism windfall according to Mayor Mark Jamieson.
But he believes Sunshine Coast Council should sell the airport to make way for a private investor who could expand operations there to make way for the lucrative Chinese market.
Mr Beck said the Air New Zealand/Virgin Australian alliance flights restarting June 18 next year would have a "terrific" flow-on effect for Noosa especially if Tourism Noosa continued its marketing push to one of its key target areas.
"The best thing they could do is for council to sell the thing - if the council sold it to private enterprise it (the major airport expansion) would be done tomorrow," Mr Beck said.
"We're taking the Chinese market quite seriously so that's why we need the airport upgrade sooner rather than later.
"They (council) just don't have enough money and it does not look like the Government is going to chip in any money into in the near future - they'll just stall and stall and stall."
However Cr Jamieson said the increased flights "justified the council's investment into Sunshine Coast Airport's development of an international terminal".
"That's an extra 3000 seats available for New Zealand tourists to visit our wonderful Sunshine Coast region, as well as a great opportunity for locals to enjoy a winter skiing trip to New Zealand - or a northern summer trip to Disneyland in Los Angeles, directly from the Sunshine Coast," the Mayor said.
"It also means that, all things being equal, the $14.5 million last season generated for our region will increase to nearly $20 million.
"This announcement is wonderful news and will cement our new relations with the great city of Auckland."
Air New Zealand group general manager Australasia Bruce Parton said the Sunshine Coast had long been a haven for Kiwis wanting a break from the long New Zealand winter, and the direct service allowed them to visit without the 1.5 hour drive each way from Brisbane.
"Destination Sunshine Coast is rapidly growing in popularity, and demand for the service is expected to exceed this year's figures as awareness of the route grows," he said.
Sunshine Coast Destination Ltd CEO Steve Cooper welcomed the additional flights following a successful trial in 2012.
"The return of this direct service with an extended season in 2013 demonstrates the undeniable demand for Kiwis to visit the Sunshine Coast. New Zealand is the number one international market for the Sunshine Coast with 76,000 Kiwis travelling to the region last financial year," he said.
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